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Important first step: Cong after SC seeks EC response on 'complete count' of VVPAT slips

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New Delhi, Apr 2 (PTI) The Congress has hailed as an "important first step" the Supreme Court's notice to the Election Commission and the Centre on a plea seeking a complete count of VVPAT slips and said the matter should be decided before the Lok Sabha polls commence.

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In a post on X, Congress general secretary Jairam Ramesh on Monday said, "The Supreme Court has issued a notice today to the Election Commission on the issue of VVPATs. It bears constant repetition that the Election Commission has refused to meet a delegation of INDIA (bloc) party leaders who have been demanding 100 per cent VVPATs to increase public confidence in EVMs and to ensure the integrity of the electoral process." The court on Monday sought responses from the commission and the central government on the plea seeking a complete count of VVPAT slips in polls as opposed to the current practice of verification of only five randomly selected EVMs through VVPAT paper slips.

"The notice is an important first step, but for it to be meaningful, the matter should be decided before the elections commence," Ramesh said.

The Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) is an independent vote verification system which permits an elector to see whether his vote was cast correctly.

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The VVPAT generates a paper slip which can be viewed by the voter and the paper slip is kept in a sealed cover and can be opened in case of a dispute.

The top court, on April 8, 2019, had ordered the poll panel to increase the number of EVMs that undergo VVPAT physical verification from one to five per assembly segment in a parliamentary constituency.

A bench comprising justices B R Gavai and Sandeep Mehta took note of the submissions of lawyers representing activist Arun Kumar Agrawal seeking a complete count of VVPAT slips in elections as opposed to the verification of only five randomly selected EVMs through VVPAT paper slips.

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It issued notices to the Election Commission (EC) and the central government on the plea which may be listed for hearing on May 17.

Senior lawyer Gopal Sankaranarayanan and advocate Neha Rathi appeared for Agrawal.

The plea assailed the EC's guideline that mandates that VVPAT verification shall be done sequentially, one after the other.

The plea said if simultaneous verification is done and more officers are deployed for counting in each assembly constituency, then complete VVPAT verification can be done in five to six hours. PTI SKC NSD NSD

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